One of the most important jobs of any leader is to create a vision for what they want to accomplish and to implement a realistic plan to realize that vision. It was fundamentally important to me in executing my vision to identify what voices were not being heard and to actively create an environment in which everyone can meaningfully participate in the conversation.
When I started in my role as Chair of the J. Crayton Pruitt Family Department of Biomedical Engineering at UF in 2013, there were 16 faculty members, two females and 14 males. My hire by the Dean was strategic. My research expertise in tissue engineering and my role in helping establish the biomedical engineering department at the University of Texas were an excellent fit to diversify the college from the top down.
Since 2013, we have hired twelve female faculty and strengthened our minority hires to ensure our faculty reflect the student population we serve. Research has shown that diverse teams make better business decisions and approach problem solving from various angles. This enhances innovation and creativity. Our students need to see diverse role models and there is no doubt that diversity is the key to the future of biomedical engineering to advance healthcare technologies for everyone.
Exciting changes are happening: our department has risen in U.S. News and World Report’s Graduate School rankings, climbing 20 spots since 2012, and our undergraduate and graduate diversity numbers have simultaneously increased (undergraduate: 34% URM and 58% women; graduate: 19% URM and 51% women).
As leaders, we must accelerate the pipeline of diverse talent for the future of our innovation ecosystem. I am passionate about educating the public and give presentations to schools, community centers and civic groups. I enjoy mentoring younger generations, particularly women and girls, not only through my role as Chair but also through outreach activities and national mentoring programs. I have mentored over 45 graduate students, 14 postdoctoral fellows and hundreds of undergraduate students in my 23 years in academia.
It’s important for me to be a voice at the national level, too. I am currently President of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), which represents the top 2% of biomedical researchers and is the nation’s authoritative voice and advocate for biomedical research.
Key accomplishments during my time as President include dramatically increasing the diversity efforts and advocacy within AIMBE by forming a Diversity and Inclusion committee to represent additional aspects of diversity. A concerted effort by committees within AIMBE and dedicated AIMBE Fellows have resulted in 3X more nominations of minorities and a 10% increase in female nominees.
These are exciting times both in the field and our department. I see more innovative and exciting research and technology development from BME than ever before. Combined with the growth our department has achieved over the past several years, we are genuinely broadening the impact of biomedical engineering activities locally, nationally and internationally. Diversity and inclusion are core to these successes.
As thought leaders, I encourage you to: